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North Carolina State Motto

Motto and Nickname

The North Carolina State Motto
The North Carolina State motto was adopted in 1893 is expressed in Latin as "Esse quam videri" which means:

"To be, rather than to seem"

The Meaning of the North Carolina State Motto
The meaning and inspiration of this famous motto is from an essay on friendship by Cicero. The message is to resolve not just to SEEM the best but in fact to BE the best. Machiavelli reversed this phrase to "videri quam esse" meaning 'to seem rather than to be' with respect to how a ruler ought to act. These complex views of the 1893 legislature must have been carefully debated and the adoption of the motto expresses their ideas for the future and the people of the state.

"To be, rather than to seem"



The North Carolina State Nickname
The North Carolina Motto is complimented by a less formal, popular North Carolina nickname which, combined with the motto, are highly descriptive of the people, the geography and the history of the region. The names used as nicknames are:

North Carolina State Nickname List
Official Nickname: Tar Heel State
Old North State
Carolina the Turpentine State
The Land of the Sky

Tar Heal Postcard Picture


The Origin and Meaning of the North Carolina Nicknames
The American citizens who live in, or who come from North Carolina, are referred to as North Carolinians. The history, origin and meaning of each of the nicknames are as follows:

The Tar Heel State
The official nickname of the Tar Heel State alludes to the tar, pitch, and turpentine, created from the enormous pine forests, that were one of North Carolina's most important exports early in the state's history. The nickname has been used as both a derogatory and an affectionate term for many years. The above picture of a 'Tar Heel' is taken from a postcard. The following poem was also printed on the card:

"Here's to the land of the Long Leaf Pine
The Summer land where the sun doth shine
Where the Weak grow Strong
And the Strong grow Great
Here's to North Carolina the good Old Tar Heel State"

The Old North State
The Old North nickname refer to the time in history, during the early 1700's, when the territory was split into northern and southern Carolina - the Old North was the affectionate name given in memory of this turbulent time in history. 

The Turpentine State
The Turpentine alludes to the extensive production of turpentine. Turps is a thin essential oil obtained from the wood of pine trees and used as a thinner for paints and varnishes.

The Land of the Sky
The Land of the Sky is the name of an 1896 book by American author Frances Fisher Tieran (1864-1920), whose pen name was Christian Reid. The Fisher family was rich but the Civil War (1861-1865) caused the family to lose much of their money and Frances started to write to earn extra money. Her story tells of travelers in western North Carolina and the name was a perfect link to the rise of tourism in the area.


The Constitution of North Carolina
The constitution of North Carolina establishes the basic rights of its citizens and echoes the words and sentiments of the motto. The preamble (opening) of the constitution is as follows:

"We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain
and establish this Constitution."

Preamble of the Constitution of North Carolina


North Carolina State Motto for Kids

Learn the meaning of the motto for kids
"To be rather than to seem" - Carolina motto
Find the meaning of the Motto and nickname
Meaning, History and Origin of the motto for kids
Meaning, origin and history of the nickname
Interesting facts, info and picture of the flag
Official Nickname "Tar Heel State"
Meaning of the motto and nickname for schools, kids and children

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North Carolina State Motto and Nickname for Kids

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